In his last circular to the Sisters of Saint Joseph two years before his death, Fr Julian Tenison Woods affectionately reminded the sisters about what was essential for their Josephite lives.

Julian exhorts the sisters to follow the example of their patron, St Joseph.

We are to try to teach [others] by the example of St Joseph, the prince of God’s house and one of the greatest saints who was amongst the poorest of men and completely hidden. With Mary and Jesus he reformed the world, not by talk and display but by virtue and prayer. We are his children and our vocation is to follow in his footsteps and leave the result to God.Julian Tenison Woods, Circular to the Sisters, 4 September 1887

Painting ‘St Joseph’ by Anne Steenbergen rsj

Julian certainly strove to follow Joseph’s example. In the gospel we learn that St Joseph was open to God’s action in his life and this was also a hallmark of Father Julian. Each possessed a deep faith which enabled an intimate relationship with God to blossom and flourish. This relationship allowed them to trust that God would guide them: they welcomed the opportunity to be instruments of God through service of others.

Obedience to God’s will was uppermost in the lives of Joseph and Julian Woods. Both listened to and heard God’s voice spoken to them in the depths of their hearts and they generously responded. To Joseph God often spoke through dreams. To Julian it was listening to God’s inspiration in prayer, in his encounters with others and his desire to alleviate suffering and lead others to God. Joseph and Julian trusted God’s interventions in their life and despite uncertainty, stepped out in faith and love.

Let us always be on the watch for [God’s] word and will. Always watching and waiting to obey immediately … let us be ever ready to follow His will, no matter how or where. Always watching and listening for his voice, ready to hasten to do all he will ask.Julian Tenison Woods, Explanation of the Rule, Chapter 6
Father Julian Tenison Woods

God’s call to St Joseph and to Fr Julian emerged and operated amid the ordinary events of life. Julian Woods encouraged the sisters to live with humility, simplicity, and trust in the Providence of God in imitation of their patron St Joseph. Julian himself led a dedicated life of prayer, simplicity and service, finding God in the ordinary – in people, places, events and in creation. God acts through the gifts and talents we possess and which we put at the service of others. By generously using our gifts we become instruments of God’s presence today.

We, like St Joseph and Fr Julian Woods, are called to listen to and heed the voice of God speaking to the depths of our hearts, to be open to the signs of God’s presence each day and to be committed to God’s purpose for humankind and for creation. We are impelled to engage in inner listening as we nurture God’s gifts and God’s life in, among and around us.

It was with deep love that Julian concluded his final letter to the sisters and there is a message here for each one of us:

Depend upon it, that the Divine and Immaculate Mother and St Joseph are with us. … With all the love of my heart I bless you. Julian Tenison Woods, Circular to the Sisters, 4 September 1887

Therese McGarry rsj